Thursday, March 28, 2013

Visitors from the Left Coast

As I've mentioned already, we had guests this weekend, all the way from LA.  This was our friends' second trip to Boston but their first since I moved here, so my husband and I were so excited to show them around this great city and New England. It's impossible to squeeze everything we love into one weekend, but we did out best to hit some of our favorites.

Our first official stop on Friday was lunch at Sam LaGrassa's for sandwiches heaped in their delicious Rumanian Pastrami and Vermont cheddar. If heaven were between two pieces of bread, this might be it.
Once we were stuffed full of pastrami, we made our way to Cambridge to visit MIT, where my husband is currently studying. We paused for a drink at their campus bar, The Muddy Charles, before moving a little ways up the Red Line to Harvard Square. At LA Burdick, we got steaming cups of their unbelievably rich single source hot chocolates. As our guests aptly observed, "It's like drinking a melted chocolate bar!"  With our hot chocolate to keep us warm, we wandered over to Hahvahd Yahhd to see their lovely campus and to rub John Harvard's toe, shiny gold from generations of hands seeking good luck!
A little further down the Red Line in Davis Square, we stopped at The Boston Shaker to sample bitters and then poked around Dave's Fresh Pasta. We couldn't decide on just one flavor of their fresh ravioli to bring home, so we went with three: roasted chicken, portobello mushroom, and cheese. Topped with their tomato mascarpone sauce and served with marinated olives and a loaf of their homemade garlic bread, we had quite a spread on our hands.

After dinner, we made our way to the NERAX Cask Beer Festival. Held at the decrepit Somerville American Legion Building, it wasn't the fanciest event, but the wide range of beers (all on cask) and the company made for a fine evening.
It's sugaring season in New England, so Saturday morning we drove up to Mason, NH for a tour of the Parker's Maple Barn Sugar House. We learned all about the syrup-making process, from tapping trees to determining the syrup grade once it comes out of the evaporator, fueled by a giant roaring fire.  They also  serve what is supposed to be an amazing breakfast, but sadly we went without breakfast or maple syrup due to a TWO HOUR wait at the restaurant. Maybe next time!
At this point, we were starving.  My husband came to the rescue, knowing a sandwich spot,  Mill No. 3 Farmstand, that sounded perfect. From the parking lot, it's just a wooden barn of a building with an attached greenhouse -- somewhere you would shop for produce and gardening supplies. But tucked away in the back, is a chalk board menu and a deli counter advertising sandwiches, salads, and soups! Everything is served in the cutest little baskets, so you can carry your meal out to a table in their sunny greenhouse, and it really hit the spot. Next, we toured the ever-growing Wachusett Brewery. Unlike Sam Adams and Harpoon, they're a little outside of the city, but these folks are worth a visit (or two). After our tour of the brewing facility and a few samples, we filled up a growler and headed back to town.
We watched March Madness games at home to rest up a bit until it was time for dinner and cocktails at Eastern Standard.  It's our favorite restaurant in Boston, and we couldn't wait to share it with Jimmy and Laura. The food, the drinks, the atmosphere -- it feels like stepping back in time into an inviting and bustling brasserie.  My favorite drink of the evening was a tart and citrusy Greenfly with Chartreuse and gin. After dinner we moved the party home for some homemade cocktails and a few rounds of Jenga.
Sunday we slept in a bit before bracing ourselves against the cold for a spot in line for Highland Kitchen's brunch.  Finally we snagged a table, where we ordered plenty of coffee, brunch cocktails, and way too much food. The boys got Dirty Birds, biscuits topped with bacon, a fried egg, and fried chicken all smothered in gravy. I got the smoked trout and bacon hash with collard greens, as I usually do. It's a quirky place that brings a touch of the south to New England. Where else can you eat collard greens with a bluegrass band in the corner?
Back at home for the afternoon, we spent a little time enjoying the beautiful (though still cold) day. We scraped snow off the picnic table and sipped on homebrew while the boys smoked cigars.
For their final evening, we headed to the historic, narrow streets of the North End. We strolled through the neighborhood, admired the skyline from the Rose Kennedy Greenway, said hello to the Paul Revere statue in front of The Old North Church, and then stepped into the cozy, slightly cramped dining room at Al Dente. Now, to me, if any place feels like Boston, it's this place. The waiters are local Italians with thick Boston accents. They're helpful and friendly while busting your chops a little bit at the same time. The portions are beyond generous, there's homemade pasta, and I don't think there's a bad choice on the menu.  After dinner, we managed to find a little room for a cannoli from Modern Pastry, because what's a trip to the North End without a cannoli?
Despite the bitter cold and lingering snow, we had a good time catching up and showing them around. Dark and early Monday morning, we bid our friends farewell.  They're back on the warmer west coast, and things are back to normal around here. We've almost survived another work week, and we're finally starting to see signs of Spring. Hopefully everyone has a wonderful Easter weekend!

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